Late to the Party: What Makes “Nashville” and “Switched at Birth” Great Television
by Herbie J Pilato
Kudos to ABC and ABC Family for doing TV right!
From the fall of 1989 to the spring of 1993, ABC aired the TV show titled, LIFE GOES ON, about a family who just so happened to have a son with Down syndrome (played by the amazing Chris Burke) became the first series, family-geared or otherwise, to feature a weekly character with a disability. Chad Lowe later joined the series in his Emmy-winning role as Jesse McKenna (who was diagnosed with HIV-virus, which developed into full-blown AIDS), and the already-ground-breaking series made further historic strides.
Further back in 1975, Robert Altman directed the Oscar-winning (for Best Song) critically-acclaimed feature film, NASHVILLE, which interlocked the country and gospel musical lives of those living in the Tennessee country musical capitol.
In 2012, ABC-TV premiered NASHVILLE, the TV show, which is similar to the 1975 in name and general premise.
In 2011, ABC’s sister network ABC Family debuted SWITCHED AT BIRTH, which features several characters who happened to be hearing-impaired. Just like Chris Burke’s Corky Thacher on LIFE GOES ON, the hearing-challenged characters on Switched at Birth are not solely defined by their disabilities. Switched at Birth features actors who are hearing-impaired in real life, and those who are not – each one performed with sensitivity.
NASHVILLE features actors who can sing and play music, and vocalists and musicians who can act – each performed with credibility.
There is an unmistakable air of authenticity on both NASHVILLE and SWITCHED AT BIRTH, in creative aspect, be it acting, writing and directing You believe what the characters on both shows are feeling and saying, how they’re saying it and why. The dialogue, delivered with mostly Southern accents on Nashville, and in genius, periodic sign-language on Switched at Birth, is nothing less than realistic.
While NASHVILLE is geared toward a more adult audience, and SWITCHED AT BIRTH is oriented toward the youth and family sector, both programs deliver the goods with dignity; they glorify the human spirit, instead of vulgarity and violence, and yet remain contemporary and significantly edgy (the media buzz word of today).
A “Grade A+” to these two excellent shows.
Herbie J Pilato is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about him HERE.